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How to Be the Boss of Your Phone

Updated on August 9, 2016

Buzzzzz! It's time to look at your phone.

It's the modern age, and we sit at the dawn of a new era for humanity, quite possibly literally, as technology permeates virtually every aspect of our lives. There is scarcely a moment to ourselves any more, as text messages, Facebook instant messages, Gmail chat notifications, and email alerts (not to mention good old fashioned phone calls) tend to tell us what to do, when to do it, and how it's going to be done.

It is time for a change! Take control of your phone and become your phone's boss with these three easy steps, and watch your quality of live improve virtually overnight.

Step 1: de-sync emails

This first step comes from The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, a highly acclaimed productivity book that you should probably take with a healthy grain of salt (meaning there are tons of great tips in there, but some of the concepts aren't likely to work for you right away, if at all). One of the best steps, and the first I recommend doing, is to go into your phone and de-sync your emails. If you're like me and use Gmail religiously, then you're familiar with the age-old ritual of using your email as a daily to-do list.

Stop it. Just stop it. First of all, this is not the most productive way to manage your day. You're going to be listening to whatever everyone else tells you to do instead of starting out by thinking about what the most important things to do today are. If you take five minutes before looking at your email (and I recommend a lot more, but that's another story), you're likely to come up with what is not just urgent and "in your face", but what is genuinely important, the thing that will benefit you the most if you accomplish it.

Go to your email's settings on your smartphone and you should be able to desync the emails easily. Don't worry- you'll sill be able to read the emails whenever you want, but you'll be able to do it in batches. As Tim says, emails are not intended to be read right as they come in, but rather in batches when it's convenient for you. Start doing this today.

Don't be this guy!


Step 2: learn to love ignoring texts

Ever notice when you're in the middle of a conversation, and, perhaps mid-sentence, the person you're talking to just stops talking, reaches for their phone, and checks that oh-so-urgent text message? They might even have the audacity to respond to it while talking to you, or they might delay the conversation, often mid-sentence, and then get back to you after the real conversation they're having is done. Are you ever that person?

This is precisely the type of behavior we have to nip in the bud here.

Personally, I still leave the "buzz" notification on for texts for two reasons. First, it might be a genuinely urgent thing, because people still tend to use text messaging for time-sensitive things (much more so than email), and second, because I sometimes enjoy having conversations via text, and actually want to know when the text comes in.

However, an extremely valuable skill that you absolutely must master if you want to be your phone's boss and not the other way around, is the concept of simply ignoring that notifying buzz when the time is right. Start out by getting rid of all sounds emanating from your phone. You simply don't need a noisy notification when a text comes in, because you're going to feel it if the phone is at your hip, and if it's out, on your desk, you're going to hear that buzzing vibration.

If you're a text junkie the way I was, this one is going to take a lot of practice. Start small, by doing this for a few minutes at a time. You can do it!


How many hours of the day do you spend on your phone?

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Step 3: put your phone away

Oh boy. I bet that headline made you shudder just a little bit inside. Your phone is your lifeline tot he outside world, and it's really important for that small business you're running, or for your corporate job, that you always have your phone on you!

For me, accomplishing this monumentous task began with "standup" meetings I had at my gym, with my co-owner at Revolution BJJ. Every week, we literally stand up and talk about what we've gotten done this week, what we're looking forward to accomplishing in the coming week, and what obstacles we've encountered ("impediments" in business-speak). No phones are allowed out during this meeting, so I usually put mine in my desk drawer.

I really, really love being connected. The technological singularity is a concept that utterly fascinates me, and I think that being connected all the time is going to be the way that we live. But the clunky interface of today's world isn't the way to do it, and essentially living your live via your smartphone 24/7 means you're going to miss out on actual life. However, being that I love staying connected, one thing I've done to ween myself off of my phone is to put the phone away, out of sight (this part is important!), while browsing the web, answering emails, or otherwise working on a laptop or desktop computer. It's amazing how easy it is to forget about my phone when I become absorbed in a world that is presented many times better (the interface of the computer nowadays is just much, much easier to use than a smartphone, although this is likely to change by 2020 or so).

Who's the boss?


A new paradigm for productivity

Ironically enough, putting your smartphone away and restricting what times you're using it can actually increase your productivity considerably. Dividing tasks by what's urgent and what's important (and please note that they are not the same thing!) is a crucial step in increasing personal productivity, and this step has been huge for me both in my personal life and in my business life. However, a smartphone tends to make every trivial task seem extremely urgent. Ask yourself at every possible juncture: is this really urgent? Could this wait until I've accomplished the genuinely important task I'm working on? Over time, you'll find yourself much more productive, getting tons of stuff done you previously thought was impossible, and feeling much less stressed out to boot.

Take control of your phone!

The author sans phone



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    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Awesome, swilliams. Thanks for taking a look, and let me know if you're able to stick with the self control and the phone, particularly with the emails. If you're going to start with one, that is probably the least painful and the highest return.

    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 3 years ago from Arizona

      Great tips! I am not very good with cell phones. I don't like talking on the phone my updates are just bad, I need to catch up. However I'm glad I'm don't go too crazy. Phone control tips are needed. Voted up and tweeted out!

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, Emi Sue! It's always great to connect with something I've written, and I only write about stuff I legitimately care about.

    • emi sue profile image

      Emily Lantry 3 years ago from Tennessee

      I really enjoy your very fresh writing style, and of course the very valuable advice.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 3 years ago from Kansas

      Great tips here. I know several people who could use them.

    • DealForALiving profile image

      Sam Deal 3 years ago from Earth

      Great tips for a world living at the mercy of their devices.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 3 years ago from USA

      I don't spend much time on the phone, neither do I have text messaging. It's hard enough to keep up with emails. Something I have learned is that I am more productive if I don't get on the phone first thing in the morning. Good points to follow.